Paste di Mandorla

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sic - cake

(They made me a cake!)

I am a lucky chef.  I have traveled the globe training cooks in the US Navy.  Next to my kids, my work in the Navy has been my greatest achievement.  I have met so many amazing people, seen amazing places (Join the Navy-See the World!), and finally understood the beauty of service.

On one trip, I got to visit southern Sicily, and stayed at the Naval Air Station Sigonella.  I worked with the native Sicilian kitchen staff at the base Galley, helped them improve Navy food, taught some American techniques,  and tried to help American service men and women appreciate the local Sicilian cuisine.

The cooks and bakers were all older Sicilian men … not a girl in sight.  They were super sweet, and so knowledgeable – but they needed help communicating with their American Navy bosses. This is ironic, because I do not speak Italian, and very few of them spoke English. I do, however, speak kitchen, cook, and baker, which are international languages.

The cooks totally embraced me – it was the most welcoming post of my career, and I reaped the benefits. Despite our training sessions, which included me showing them (embarrassingly) how to make macaroni and cheese and meatloaf the way Americans like it –  I was, in the off hours, given  a sacks of local cheese, family label olive oil, specialty pastry, family recipes, and a special cooking lesson on the best cookie ever, which I will share with you lucky peeps now.

sic me n sal

 Of course his name is Sal.  Doesn’t he look like a Sal?!?!

sicily crewThe Sigonella Lunch Crew sic - has gelato Sicily=Gelato

This recipe was made almonds (mandorla in Italian), but I was told it is frequently made with pistachio, too. I know you can purchase almond flour, but it is not as good as fresh ground.

On Memorial Day, in addition to our defenders, I like to remember the support staff.  They are the one’s I know the best. I can never forget that Food Service is vital. Food boosts morale, and is, therefore, vital to successful defense.  I believe this with my whole heart.  We need to improve it.  Call your representative.

Happy Memorial Day to everyone, especially all my CS’s !!!      Miss you!


1 pound almonds, ground to a fine flour
1 pound powdered sugar
Grated zest of large, really good lemon
1 tablespoon Amaretto (or vanilla)
2 tablespoons honey
4 egg whites, whipped stiff


  1. Combine ground almonds, sugar, zest, amaretto, and honey in a mixer with a paddle and combine well. Slowly add egg whites, which will bind the dough together. You may need more or less egg whites depending on the grind of your almonds. Beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes. The dough will come together, sand should be tacky, but easy to handle and roll.  You can add more powdered sugar if necessary.
  2. Turn dough out onto a work surface dusted with powdered sugar. Roll into inch-thick ropes, and cut off into 2-3 inch pieces. Roll in powdered sugar, Then pinch the short rope into a poochy “S” shape. Dough may also be rolled into balls and decorated with a cherry in the middle.
  3. Bake at 350˚F until just barely brown. Cool completely before you try to eat it. The outer crust will be crisp, but the inside will be soft and chewy.



**OK … Not the best picture I ever took, but fer sher the best cookie ever!


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OK puff heads. Now that you have made your own puff pastry, it’s time for palmiers. This is a simple technique. The dough was the hard part.

Sometimes called elephant ears, these flat, crisp, cookies are loaded with buttery goodness.

You might sometimes find these pastries filled with cinnamon sugar or some other creative variant. This is all well and good, but it is not authentic and therefore I shun it. Of course what you choose to fold into your Palmiers is your own damn business.

Watch these carefully. They are thin and can burn quickly with all that sugar. Rotate the pan as necessary to promote even browning. Be sure to cool them completely before you dig in, to give them a chance to fully crisp up (and to prevent third-degree lip burns, brainiacs.)


1 sheet of puff pastry, rolled 18X24 inches, and 1/4 inch thick
3-4 cups sugar
1 cup simple syrup

  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and with a rolling pin roll into an 18×24 rectangle. Cover the entire surface generously with 2 cups sugar. With the rectangle in front of you horizontally, divide it visually into 6 even columns (I like to draw the lines into the sugar). Fold the outer edges over at the first mark, then again into the center so that the folded edges just meet. Top with more sugar and fold in half like a book, so that you have created a palmier log. (It’s similar to a double-turn, but with one extra fold.) Chill at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Slice the palmier log into 1/2-inch heart shaped cookies. Dredge each cookie generously in sugar, and space cookies 2-inches apart on prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes until dough begins to set, then flip with a spatula and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Cool completely before serving.

Commencing BAKERY JURY …

Palmiers fatThese are ludicrously fat. These would not be crisp, but soft like a cinnamon roll. Plus they look like Jr. Bird Man spectacles, and not palm leaves. C-

palm chocWrong and Wronger. Both are overcooked, but the one on the left could pass as chocolate. A mean trick to play on someone. D


It looks like this one tried to unfold itself and escape off the pan. Alas the temp was too hot and it perished. Improper folding has turned this into the letter “C” . Coincidentally, the same as it’s grade. C

palm nut



This clever cook tried to jazz these up with a layer of Nutella. A valiant effort, but a goopy filling and inadequate oven time has rendered them undercooked, un-caramelized, and frankly, kinda gross looking. C-




BOOOOO! Not caramelized. BOOOO! D

palm dip


NO! These are not biscotti. You may not dip. Also, not caramelized. A double whammie. D+
Palmiers wrongiers



Good God! Red sugar? Shoot me now.  F

palm burnt



Overcooked and under-folded. I think this baker was drunk. C- (Plus detention)



(For a good looking palmier, see the top of this recipe!)